Saturday, 12 March 2011


It's been a long month since I last posted here, and I'm afraid to say that there's not much to report. This is everything I can remember that has happened since our trip to Seoul:

1. My birthday.

2. Teaching.

3. Tom joined a local rugby club. (He's at practice right now.)

4. I continued going to yoga. Then I stopped, and started doing yoga with YouTube videos at home.

5. Tom joined a gym.

6. Teaching. (One student gave me flowers.)

7. Having minor breakdowns about teaching, usually on days where I received no flowers.

8. A spot of freelance writing (woohoo!).

9. Enrolling on a long-distance journalism course.

These are my books, which arrived last night. Not shown: three DVDs, three CDs, and an empty folder which says "Portfolio" on the front. As in, the portfolio I'm going to have put together by the end of this course.

See that top book? That's "Essential Law for Journalists." See how thick it is?

Anyway, while I quake in my boots and figure out how to turn our second bedroom, now oven-room, back into a study, I should explain that really not much has been going on. Work takes over, really, and we have no energy to travel or even learn Korean. I spend my free time either cooking, writing my cooking blog, or freelancing.

We've been here for almost six months and are starting to worry about what we'll do in October. I'll need to take exams in the UK in November 2011 or April 2012 for this journalism course, depending on how quickly I manage to get through that stack of books there, so that factors in.

Hmm. I really do have nothing to say! I hope you enjoyed this brief update on the everyday mundanity that is my life.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Seoul sojourn

Thanks to Lunar New Year - which isn't even a holiday I've really been aware of in the past - we got three days off work this past week, and decided to take advantage of this fact to gad about in Seoul for a while. We took the bus early on Wednesday morning, arrived in Seoul three hours and fifty minutes later, and did quite a lot of things. This is going to be a long post, so get yourself ready.

The first thing we did, after dropping our stuff off at the hotel, was head to Craftworks Taphouse in Itaewon for lunch. The Taphouse had been recommended to us as a place which served draft ale, so Tom in particular was very keen. We were tired and hungry after the journey, and desperate for some interaction with native English speakers, so were completely unashamed to go there and eat cheeseburgers.

After a while, we decided to head for the Seoul Museum of History, accessible via Gwanghwamun subway station. On leaving the station, we saw this:

We headed a bit closer...

And found a statue of King Sejong, commonly called the "Great King." In the fifteenth century, he invented Hangul, the Korean alphabet, which is (in my experience, which involves Japanese, Chinese and now Korean) the easiest writing system in the Far East.

Behind this statue, doors were set into the plinth, and you could head into and under the statue to a museum all about Sejong. We found this by the front door:

 Christmas tree = Lunar New Year. Sure, okay.

We saw a Korean musical instrument.

And this was an astronomical model of some sort. The fairy lights above were arranged in constellations, and you could press buttons to show which constellations were visible in which seasons. Below that was a large bowl decorated with drawings of gods and so on.

There was a camera machine. Tom enjoyed it.

This says "Scientific and sonic 'Hangeul', a  symbol of Korea. Hangeul: the only letter system capable of expressing all sounds of the world." To which I respond, "bollocks." (Yes, that's how strongly I feel about this issue.) "There's no F in Korean. My name is transliterated as "Peu-ren-che-seu-ka." Bloody liars.

After a while wandering around the museum, we remembered our original goal and walked further down the road to the Seoul Museum of History. On the way, we saw a giant statue of a woman using some sort of hammer. I liked this very much.

There was a map engraved on the ground in front of the museum.


Unfortunately the museum was closed, so we headed over to Namsan Tower. You wouldn't believe it looking at this photo, but by this time it was getting quite dark, and I'd read that there was a light show at the tower every night and that Seoul from above, in the dark, was a view worth seeing.

We took the subway to the nearest station, and then followed the most ridiculous - and dangerous - directions to get to the cable car. Directions I'd printed off from a Seoul tourism website made us go along narrow roads with no pavement or lighting, and sent us teetering up steep slopes covered in snow, ice and water. (Although it was quite warm, especially on Wednesday and Thursday, it's clearly been freezing in Seoul for ages, and there were heaps of snow everywhere.) I was absolutely terrified, and by the time we'd been up and down Namsan and back to the train station, neither of us could stop our legs from shaking.

Turns out that I don't like cable cars. There were at least twenty people crammed into a tiny box with no seats, which happened to be dangling from a washing line as it ascended a mountain. All I could think was "this is what horror movies are made of."

At the top of Namsan Mountain, we sat for a while - I calmed down and psyched myself up for the journey back - and took some pictures.

The light show was cancelled due to the cold, oddly, so we took a picture of Seoul-by-night - kind of foggy - and went back down.

And then we went back to Itaewon and had Taco Bell for dinner. It's shameful, I know.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Pictures from the classroom

An example conversation between a teacher and students in one of the teaching guides.

One of my students would like a scary pig for a pet.

Another would quite like a bearded king pig.

An innocent mistake.

A lego family.

Reasons why Father Christmas should bring this student presents: "I'm long."

Thursday, 20 January 2011

January Update

I've been working very hard on my cooking blog recently, so this poor little travel blog has been somewhat neglected. Also, I didn't want to write anything after having a bad week last week - I had two bad days at work in a row (a combination of greed, inefficiency, and plain rude students), with a bad morning in between: we ended up making stupid mistakes and spending way too much money on taxis on a trip to Home Plus, where some of the basics (like chicken and milk) had risen 50% in price. I think the breakdown was also partly due to the lack of cheese in this part of the world. Thankfully this week has been much better, although I'm dreading today for reasons I will expand upon below.

Tom has been needing a haircut for a while, and luckily one of his adult students knew a hairdresser who had worked in Australia for a year - Tom was adamant that he didn't want a Korean haircut, so jumped at the idea of someone who has at least seen other hairstyles, and who must speak a bit of English. We found the place on Sunday, and although the man's English was minimal, Tom came out with a perfectly decent haircut. And promptly started complaining about how cold his ears were. Yesterday (Wednesday) I finished knitting a (very plain) hat for him.

I also have a hat!

Didn't knit it myself though.

In two weeks, it is Korean New Year - the lunar new year starts on 3rd February, to be precise, which means that we're only working Monday and Tuesday that week. Just this morning we booked a hotel in Seoul from the Wednesday to Saturday, and are very excited about spending my pre-birthday-weekend in the capital. On Saturday, if not before, we'll be able to book buses there and back. We've been looking at museums and palaces and wine bars (of course) on the internet all morning.

In the meantime, though, today is Thursday, which means I've got one class which I absolutely hate. It's just one student, and I've heard that he is meant to be the best English student in the district - but I'm afraid to say he's just stupid. And rude. I dread teaching him, especially today, because on Tuesday I found out that he has been lying about me to his mother and his mother is now refusing to pay for the times I have taught him. As far as I know, this won't affect my salary, but I do sincerely hope that his mother withdraws him from our school.

Oh well. Just 36 weeks to go!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Last Week of 2010

We had a wonderful Christmas. And it snowed! In Gwangyang, where apparently it never snows!

We were very happy.

Unfortunately, on Monday and Tuesday we had to work. It was difficult going in, knowing that pretty much everyone we know would be on holiday. Still, we got through it okay, and on Wednesday the academies closed again. I went a bit enthusiastic about baking on Wednesday, for some reason, and we ended up with a lot of bagels and crescent cookies. The crescent cookies were gorgeous. I made 22, I think, and ended up eating probably eighteen of them.

On Thursday, we got up annoyingly early and headed off with our colleague to eastern Korea! It snowed again as we left Gwangyang.

We drove most of the day, stopping off at anywhere that looked weird or wonderful, and drove back the next day. Unfortunately I forgot to get any pictures of the hotel we stayed at, which was stunning - a claw-footed bathtub, heated floors, free internet, and all for the equivalent of about thirty pounds! We were very, very happy.

There are more pictures of our trip at the bottom of the page. Be careful if you're looking at this at work, or anywhere where it might be dangerous to look at sculpted penises - we went to Penis Park, and faithfully documented the trip with our camera.

After getting home yesterday evening, we relaxed for a while, drank some prosecco, and went to the local foreigners' bar. We've not been there before, but as New Year's Eve is an occasion which demands a drink (and we thought it would be a little depressing to sit at home as the new year came in), we thought we'd trek through the ice to find it. It was an easy ten minute walk away - and the experience was so surreal! We weren't the tallest people in the room! Other people understood us! (I say that, but my English accent befuddled someone behind the bar. I asked for "two beers" and they thought I said "two Bailey's." Another person said that my accent was very neutral and not very British. Weird.) Tom was invited to join their rugby team, and is seriously considering it. (Talking of exercise, I'm also starting yoga next week, although that's with colleagues and not foreigners.)

Right, I think that's everything, so... on to the pictures. I'll repeat my warning about the penises. Also, if you want to see more photos, the Facebook albums here and here are far more thorough.

Happy New Year!

Lots more to come as soon as possible - but for now, a happy 2011 to you all.